Finally! School Choice can show its stuff

April 3, 2013

Thomas Lifson

The Great State of Indiana is about to test statewide school choice on a meaningful scale. This a major victory that has attracted little media attention at a time when the MSM  narrative is focused on same sex marriage splitting the Republicans, and the inevitable tide of history sweeping away the evangelical wing of the GOP into the dustbin of history, or at least out of the its status as the party’s reliable base.

Michael Gerson of the Washington Post explains why the Indiana experiment is important:

The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the state’s school voucher program. Under it, more than half a million low- and middle-income Hoosier students – and about 62 percent of all families – are eligible for state aid to help pay for a private or religious school.

This is what school choice traditionally has lacked: scale.

The reason that choice experiments have been confined to localized, small scale projects with limited prospects is the alliance of normally opposite classes in a vested interest embrace: labor unions and property owners. On the one hand, the teacher unions and bureaucrats, and on the other bourgeois owners of homes in districts with good schools.  They have paid a premium for their homes in such districts. If educational opportunity ever were to be equalized through a system of vouchers, the price premium on a broad swath of higher end real estate would go down.

This generally has relegated vouchers to the margins of education reform, in underfunded micro-programs aimed at the very poorest. (snip)

A limited choice program is not the same thing as a healthy, responsive educational market. “A rule-laden, risk-averse sector,” argues Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute, “dominated by entrenched bureaucracies, industrial-style collective-bargaining agreements and hoary colleges of education will not casually remake itself just because students have the right to switch schools.”

But now, the Indiana Supreme Court has laid down some important legal landmarks. There may be a trend here:

Only recently, a few innovative governors – particularly former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal – have decided to bring this promise to scale. The Louisiana Supreme Court will soon issue a judgment on Jindal’s program. The Indiana verdict hardly could have been more favorable to the choice movement. The court found that Indiana is serving valid educational purposes both by maintaining a public school system and by providing options beyond it. And it held (as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002) that including religious schools as an option does not establish religion. “Any benefit to program-eligible schools, religious or non-religious,” the Indiana court concluded, “derives from the private, independent choice of the parents.”

These principles have broader implication. The pursuit of the public interest does not always require a public bureaucracy.

The plain fact is that the government takeover of public education was a very bad idea. Bureaucracy eats up close to half of the resources, and there are few rewards for superior performers but an abundance of protections for incompetents. The results are predictable.

The other plain fact is that taxpayers can no longer afford to support an ineffective education system, never mind the ideological indoctrination that’s part of the Progressives’ package. The goal ought to be competing with government schools for taxpayer funding. Let the parents decide whether to go  with the one size fits all government plan, or choose something else. Competition always works, so Indiana marks a great start down a path that targets one of the pillars of the Democratic Party’s base.

Governor Mitch Daniels and the Republican-controlled state legislature are the heroes of this chapter of a movement that holds great promise to push back the Left.

Page Printed from: at April 03, 2013 – 09:19:22 AM CDT

The Question at Court

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted at 10:19 AM ET, 3/26/2013

Obviously, the next two days are going to be important ones in establishing the parameters of gay (and straight) rights in this country (

For conservatives who support gay rights, including the right of gays to marry, there are some tricky questions.  Do societies have the right to legislate about sexual mores? That’s one of the big issues at stake.  If the Court strikes down Prop. 8,  it’s hard to see how anyone can ever argue again that the state (i.e., citizens as a group) has any interest in regulating any kind of sexual behavior between consenting adults, regardless of whether that behavior may have deleterious effects on family stability or the welfare of children.  (That’s not to say that gay marriage will necessarily have these effects; the point is that we don’t know – but striking down the law is an implicit statement that such rationales do not pass constitutional muster).

it’s also hard to see how conservatives can cheer on the prospect of the Supremes finding a right to gay marriage in the Constitution and then consistently argue against the jurisprudence of cases like Roe vs. Wade — or call themselves strict constructionists.

On the other hand, there is some inconsistency on the part of the lefties who favor overturning both Prop. 8 and DOMA.  How does one insist, on the first day of arguments, that the people of California had no right to define marriage as between a man and a woman — and then, on the second day, argue that DOMA should be struck down because it does not respect the right of states that have chosen to recognize gay marriage?  Either states have rights to define marriage for themselves, or they don’t.

To me, it seems that gay marriage is the kind of question best reserved for state legislatures, rather than for the Court to find a wholly new, hitherto undiscovered (and, a decade ago, wholly unimaginable) “right” to gay marriage.  The latter is the course it chose in Roe, thereby spurring decades of bitter politics, rather than allowing the people themselves to make their voices heard and then to decide.  Are there practical difficulties in such a course? Absolutely — but anyone who hates the division and bitterness of America‘s abortion politics can understand why it’s better to let elected state (and federal) legislatures (and/or their citizens), rather than unelected and unaccountable judges, make these kinds of decisions.

Mental Illness and Guns

By Matthew Ernst

Ever since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting there has been much discussion about improving the nation’s mental health care system. But what exactly does that mean? It seems that nearly all of us agree that we should keep firearms away from people who are mentally unstable, but accomplishing that is much more difficult than generally realized.

We must remember that the term “mental illness” is only a general term that refers to more than 300 mental health disorders that are currently recognized. In order to thoroughly analyze this issue, we must differentiate between specific mental disorders, because not all mental illnesses lead to a high likelihood of violence. Thus, there will not be an effective “one size fits all” solution.

Mental illness is much more prevalent than we might realize. In any given year, a full 25% of U.S. adults are diagnosable for at least one mental health disorder, with approximately 6% of the population suffering from a “seriously debilitating mental illness” (SMI). SMI’s, which are commonly present in people who commit violent acts, include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism.

Our current mental healthcare system was primarily established by the U.S. Supreme Court case Lessard v. Schmidt. The Lessard decision stated that people who suffer from mental illness are entitled to the same Constitutional rights as everyone else — they cannot be illegally detained, are entitled to legal due process, have the right to own firearms, etc. In addition, a law enforcement officer can only take a person into custody, if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person presents an immediate danger to him/herself or others.

However, if the person doesn’t present any immediate danger, and has not committed a crime, a law enforcement officer cannot legally take that person into custody. This oftentimes leads to the person remaining in the same environment which may have helped contribute to the problem in the first place.

This is the critical issue regarding our current mental health policy. Law enforcement officers encounter people every day who suffer from mental illness and have not committed a crime. But just because a person suffers from mental illness doesn’t mean the officer can take them into custody. If the officer doesn’t have any evidence that the person poses an imminent danger then sometimes there is little the officer can do. This means the officer may walk away having done nothing to reduce the possibility of a violent act being committed.

A person who suffers from developmental disabilities and mental illness is 7 times more likely to come into contact with law enforcement. Consequently, officers have a major opportunity to intervene in ways that others will not. If an officer cannot take a person into custody, the officer still should highly consider other actions such as notifying the person’s family members, their treatment provider, talking the person into voluntarily seeking treatment, transporting the person to a homeless shelter, etc.

While all states adopted the Lessard standards, mental health laws still vary from state to state. Each state defines “dangerous” and “mental illness” differently. Both federal law and most states’ laws are designed to prevent people with mental illness from owning firearms. In addition, people prohibited from owning a firearm by one of these laws can be entered into a national database (NICS) of people who are not allowed to purchase or possess firearms.

However, many states only make it voluntary to report people with mental illness to NICS, and many states choose not to report. Both Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have indicated that their states have not entered tens of thousands of mental health records to NICS. A current bill under debate in the Senate encourages states to submit mental health records to NICS, but it doesn’t make reporting mandatory. Reporting to NICS should be mandatory, not encouraged. We don’t encourage convicted felons to get entered into NICS; indeed it is mandatory. Why would we not do the same with those who are assessed to be at a high risk of committing violence?

Regardless of the state, however, many people with SMI do not receive adequate treatment. A 2008 survey showed that only 58.7% of those suffering from SMI, received treatment. That means 42.3% are not receiving any treatment. In the last 50 years the number of beds in psychiatric hospitals has decreased from 559,000 to 43,000.

Bottom line: there have simply been too many mass shootings in the U.S. for us to think that we don’t need to change the way we do some things. One recent study showed that there have been 62 mass shootings in the last 30 years, with 61% of the shooters having shown signs of mental illness prior to the shooting. Three separate studies all showed that mass killings are increasing.

While the majority of people who suffer from mental illness might not be dangerous, a small percentage are incredibly dangerous. Approximately 10% of all homicides are committed by someone with untreated, severe mental illness. Of greatest concern are those who are not receiving any treatment. Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a research psychiatrist involved with SMI’s, recently wrote:

Would we have fewer mass killings in the U.S. if we made sure that individuals with severe mental illnesses were receiving treatment? Examining the other 10 largest mass killings suggests that the answer is yes.

While law enforcement remains on the front lines of dealing with mental illness, another emerging trend is Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT). AOT is court-ordered outpatient treatment for people with mental illness who meet certain criteria. AOT is now permitted in 44 states. Several studies have shown that AOT reduces hospitalization, violence, homelessness, and reduced stress for caregivers. Legislators must be passing legislation which allows for the continued expansion of AOT.

We are then left with these questions: Can we predict violent behavior in someone with SMI? Multiple studies have shown that the people who are most likely to become violent have a SMI, along with substance abuse. The most common SMI’s present in people who commit violent acts are schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Other common factors that increase the risk of violent behavior include: having a past history of violence, paranoia, neurological impairment, antisocial personality disorder, being male, and refusal to take medication.

It should be obvious by now that our mental healthcare system has definite room for improvement. The overall capacity of the mental healthcare system is not currently accommodating the mental healthcare needs of our society. We may never be able to prevent every single mass killing committed by a person with a mental illness. But research points us in the right direction for identifying people at risk of committing violence.

Without a doubt, some of us have a much higher level of interaction with this issue just based simply on our occupation. However, all of us will encounter people with mental illness. Whether we work to combat this issue as part of our occupation, or we simply take steps to ensure our neighbor with SMI gets treatment, we can all do something — indeed responsible citizenship requires it.

Page Printed from: at March 26, 2013 – 11:01:02 AM CDT

Apportionment and The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution

Fred Elbel.

Website by Fred Elbel, Elbel Consulting Services, LLC

Political representation in the United States is based upon creating constituencies in proportion to geographical areas. The US House of Representatives, for example, delimits seats proportionally between states. The states, in turn, create districts in which House members run.

The decennial US Census has been used since 1790 as the basis for the United States representational form of government. As a result of growing population, the number of House members eventually quadrupled in size. In 1911, the number of Representatives was therefore fixed at 435.

In principle, districts are reapportioned every ten years after the decennial US Census. The number of districts apportioned to each state is defined by Congress, in accordance with Title 2 of US Code. (In practice, the two major political parties vie for control of reapportionment in order to maximize their respective constituency bases). During the 1960s, the Supreme Court ruled in a series of cases that congressional and state legislative districts must consist of relatively equal populations. Specifically, the Court’s decision in Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) mandated that states apportion congressional district boundaries based strictly according to population.

Malapportionment can occur in the states as a result of failures to reapportion after significant population shifts within established districts. The resulting effect is that in a given House district, a House member can end up representing a much larger number of voters as compared with another district. The result is that citizens in the larger district have less direct access to, and influence upon, their elected Representative – thus diluting the principle of “one man, one vote”, which has been upheld by the US Supreme Court.1

Reapportionment based on non-citizens

As the number of US House seats is fixed at 435, reapportionment means that if a given state gains a House district, another state must lose one. If (illegal alien non-citizens are counted in the decennial Census upon which districts are apportioned, then states with larger illegal alien populations are likely to end up with more districts and therefore more representation in the House. This effectively dilutes the votes of citizens in states having relatively low populations of illegal aliens.

Similarly, congressional districts in those states with proportionately higher numbers of illegal aliens end up representing a large illegal alien, non-citizen, non-enfranchised population.

Illegal immigration has the same effect on presidential elections because the Electoral College is based on the size of congressional delegations. Indeed, the presence of all foreign-born persons in 2000 (naturalized citizens, non-citizens, and illegal aliens) redistributed 16 seats, up from 12 seats in 1990.5

For example, in Southern California, several districts contain less than half of the eligible voters found in districts in other states.2 Indeed, 43 percent of the population in California’s 31st district is made up of non-citizens, while in the 34th district, 38 percent are non-citizens. In Florida’s 21st district, 28 percent of the population is non-citizen, and in New York’s 12th district the number is 23 percent.5 The presence of illegal aliens in other states caused Indiana, Michigan, and Mississippi to each lose one seat in the House in 2000, while Montana failed to gain a seat it otherwise would have. In addition, the presence of all non-citizens in the Census redistributed a total of nine seats.5

Apportionment Solutions

Reapportionment weighted by the presence of illegal alien noncitizens is notably unfair to American citizens (both natural-born and naturalized), and clearly violates the principle of “one man, one vote”.

The most obvious solution to this inequity is to stop counting noncitizens for purposes of apportionment. Article 1 Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be conducted every 10 years expressly for the purpose of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives. Yet the Constitution does not specify the method of apportionment, or the composition of the population to be apportioned. Since the original 1790 apportionment, several different methods have been used, with the method of Equal Proportions being used since 1940.

Precedent is established in that Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment both explicitly exclude non-taxed Indians from apportionment. In addition, the 14th Amendment, Section 2 acknowledges that some may be denied the right to vote. 2

Although the Supreme Court has to-date favored counting both citizens and noncitizens in reapportionment cases, this interpretation of the Constitution appears to clearly go against the Founders’ intent. It should not require a Constitutional amendment to count only citizens for apportionment purposes, but in light of special interest groups pushing for open borders, perhaps an Amendment ultimately will be necessary.

“If, as I suggest, one person one vote protects a right uniquely held by citizens, it would be a dilution of that right to allow noncitizens to share therein.”

Kozinski’s opinion reinforces the concept that illegal aliens should not be count for apportionment purposes.

Given the number and power of special interest groups pressing for open borders, any attempt to change apportionment methodology would meet substantial resistance in Congress. Furthermore, the most serious obstacle to counting only citizens for apportionment purposes would remain: the inability to differentiate between citizens and noncitizens during the Census-taking process.

Ultimate Solution

The ultimate solution would be to enforce existing immigration laws both along the US perimeter and within in the interior, thus preventing additional illegal aliens from entering the US, while encouraging those already living here to return home to reunite with their families.


1.   Reapportionment, and United States Census, 2000 (Wikipedia)

2.   James Gimpel and John Edwards , Immigration Dilutes the Voting Rights of Citizens- Gimpel, The Social Contract (Winter 2005)

3.   Charles Wood, Losing Control of America’s Future — Census, Birthright Citizenship & Illegal Aliens, The Social Contract (Spring 2005) [This article is adapted from a larger paper, “Losing Control of America’s Future – the Census, Birthright Citizenship, & Illegal Aliens“, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (Spring, 1999)]

4.   Charles Wood, Losing Control of the Nation’s Future — Part One — The Census and Illegal Aliens, The Social Contract (Winter 2005) [This article is adapted from a larger paper, “Losing Control of America’s Future – the Census, Birthright Citizenship, & Illegal Aliens“, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (Spring, 1999)]

5.   Dudley L. Poston, Jr., Steven A. Camarota, and Amanda K. Baumle, Remaking the Political Landscape – The Impact of Illegal and Legal Immigration on Congressional Apportionment (Center for Immigration Studies, October 2003)

6.   Dudley L. Poston, Jr., Steven A. Camarota, Leon F. Bouvier, Godfrey Jin-Kai Li, and Hong Dan, Remaking the Political Landscape – How Immigration Redistributes Seats in the House (Center for Immigration Studies, October 1998)

7.   Mark Krikorian, Dudley L. Poston, Jr., Steven Camarota, Noah M. J. Pickus, Remaking The Political Landscape: The Impact of Illegal and Legal Immigration on Congressional Apportionment, Panel Discussion Transcript, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. (Center for Immigration Studies, October 23, 2003)

8.   Steven A. Camarota, The Impact of Non-Citizens on Congressional Apportionment, Testimony prepared for the House Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census (Center for Immigration Studies, December 6, 2005)

9.   Leon F. Bouvier, The Impact of Immigration on Congressional Representation (Center for Immigration Studies, July, 1988)

10.   Steven A. Camarota Rotten Boroughs – Immigration’s Effect on the Redistribution of House Seats (Center for Immigration Studies, Fall, 1998)

11.   Dudley. L. Poston, “The U.S. Census and Congressional apportionment”, Jr. (Society, 34, March-April 1997, pp.36-44)

12.   Dudley L. Poston, Jr., Leon F. Bouvier, and Hong Dan, “The Impacts of apportionment Method and Legal and Illegal Immigration on Congressional apportionment in the Year 2000”, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Demographic Association, Orlando, Florida (September 25-27, 1997)